Is this the easiest, most direct way to motivate donors to give?

It’s no secret that giving confers all kinds of benefits to donors. People who give are generally happier and even healthier than non-givers.

But if that’s true, then how would donors react if we pointed out those benefits in an appeal? Will speaking directly to donors’ self-interest about the benefits of giving persuade them to give or maybe to give more?

There’s not a lot of research to go on. But one study suggests that laying out the benefits of giving just might work.

As a first step, researches explored whether a virtuous cycle exists between happiness and giving — that is, does giving cause the happiness that encourages donors to give?

The subjects were asked to recall a time when they spent money on themselves or others, and report their happiness. Then each subject was offered the choice in future spending that would make them the happiest. Turns out, the people who felt happy by recalling a previous expenditure for someone else were more likely to donate in the future. So, the virtuous cycle does seem to exist.

Next, researchers explored whether laying out the benefits of giving would motivate people to give. Researchers surveyed 1,000 readers of the New York Times who had read an article about the link between giving and happiness. Compared to other studies, the people in this group reported devoting as much as 40% of their spending on others — a higher than average rate — suggesting that these people gave more because they were aware of the benefits of giving.

Yet, other research suggests that adding in motivators like happiness from giving will divert donors’ attention from the need and lessen their impulse to give.

Still, promoting the benefits of giving is worth testing to see how your donors will react. If you’re bold, come right out and link greater happiness with a gift to your nonprofit. If you’re cautious, use subtle suggestions. And see whether or how much this added dimension moves your donors.


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